Image: Darnell Moore, "Urban Spaces and the Mattering of Black Lives," The Just City Essays.
Of the many crises facing contemporary cities, perhaps none has captured the public imagination as profoundly and persistently as the racial and socioeconomic injustice propelling protests around the globe. The increasing visibility of urban inequity, write Toni L. Griffin, Ariella Cohen, and David Maddox, suggests a new formulation—the "just city"—join the stable of future cities (the "livable city," the "green city," the "sustainable city," and the "resilient city") now subject to research and speculation among academics, designers, and policymakers.
The Just City Essays, a 26-part series published online in full October 23 by the J. Max Bond Center on Design for the Just City at the City College of New York, The Nature of Cities, and Next City and funded by the Ford Foundation, brings the diverse perspectives of architects, artists, doctors, philanthropists, ecologists, and more to bear on the fundamental questions of what makes a just city, and how to get there. The essays are arranged into six sections: "Tearing down Invisible Walls," "Reinvigorating Democracy," "Designing for Agency," "Inclusive Growth," "The Big Detox," and "Elevating Planning and Design. Griffin, Cohen, and Maddox co-authored the introduction; Maddox offers an epilogue, "Cities in Imagination."
"[T]oday's headlines . . . resound with the need for a frank conversation about the structures and processes that affect the quality of life and livelihoods of urban residents," write Griffen, Cohen, and Maddox. "The persistence of injustice in the world's cities—dramatic inequality, unequal environmental burdens and risks, and uneven access to opportunity—demands a continued and reinvigorated search for ideas and solutions." One hopes that The Just City Essays, grounded in robust scholarship yet geared toward producing real change in both the short and long terms, represent the first words in a long, fruitful, and urgently-needed dialogue.